Technology for Parishes Is about Relationships: Speakers at Villanova Urge Churches to Integrate Tools of 'Web 2.0'

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA * Do you know what Web 2.0 is? If not, "Google it," said St. Joseph Sr. Caroline Cerveny.

In a talk on "Catechetics in the 21st Century," Cerveny said there are hundreds of ways that parishes and their religious education programs can take advantage of Internet interactive computer and mobile device technology to advance their ministry.

Computers and mobile devices are about communication, interaction and relationships, and should be an integral part of life in today's parish and its religious education programs, she said.

Unfortunately, she added, in most parish religious education programs "teachers don't have the training or the funds" to obtain such technological tools or use them effectively.

She suggested four levels of technology use for religious education:

* Basic: a computer, screen, LCD projector and speakers.

* Cyber: the basic elements plus an Internet connection.

* Interactive: the basics and Internet plus SMART Board, an interactive whiteboard for classroom use.

* Participatory: Interactive plus a computer lab or portable computers or mobile devices.

Cerveny and other speakers at a daylong parish technology summit Feb. 25 at Villanova University in Philadelphia offered a variety of ways that parishes can use today's computer technology and electronic mobile devices to advance their mission and ministry, especially among youths and young adults. The summit was organized by the university's Center for the Study of Church Management.

Among suggestions the speakers raised were:

* Use Internet resources for religious education and sacramental preparation.

* Put weekly bulletins, announcements and other parish news on the Web.

* Put an electronic registration link on the home page of your parish Web site, inviting newcomers to join the parish and to submit e-mail and other contact information for follow-up.

* Use webinars (Web seminars), blogs and other interactive Internet tools to replace tedious informational meetings, allowing busy parishioners to participate from home instead of spending an evening at the parish hall.

* Use Web resources already out there for everything from daily scripture readings and meditation to Bible study, religious education and sacramental preparation.

* Encourage electronically linked prayer groups.

* Set and publicize volunteer ministry schedules, such as those for readers, greeters and eucharistic ministers at Mass, through the Web.

* Use free and open-source software from the Web to create presentations and to edit images and video. Or even design classroom presentations from www.moodle.net, a free Web site created to help teachers exploit the educational possibilities of Internet technology.

Cerveny noted that Web 2.0--which garners 382 million hits in a Google search--is not a new Internet but a term coined to reflect the increasingly easy social networking, sharing, two-way communication, collaboration and global reach, all made possible by advances in Internet-based technology, that are shaping the way youths and young adults communicate.

Think Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace or what has become the world's most massive and accurate encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

Cerveny is president of Interactive Connections, which she founded recently to promote better Internet technology use in religious education and pastoral outreach. …